The Philadelphia 76ers ended 2022 with a resounding 115-96 victory on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Sixers will now look to build on that positive momentum in 2023 when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday.
Philadelphia played a stellar game on Saturday even without James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and P.J. Tucker for injury management. All three players are expected to be available against the Pelicans.
Tobias Harris led the way with 23 points while Joel Embiid produced 16 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and four blocked shots. Shake Milton scored 18 points and De’Anthony Melton added 17.
Eleven different Sixers scored, including deep reserves Paul Reed and Jaden Springer.
“I was just happy with how professional we (were) — this is a back-to-back, New Year’s Eve,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of Saturday’s game. “This was a trap game in a lot of ways. They had the day off, we had guys missing and we come out and play like that. That was terrific.”
The Sixers held Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Gilgeous-Alexander entered the game averaging 31.4 points.
“Shai’s a great player,” Harris said. “He’s having a (heck) of a year, so we obviously know that he’s the focal point for their team. We tried to make a lot of his looks difficult, and he still makes a lot of great plays on the floor.”
The Sixers will have another daunting defensive challenge against New Orleans’ Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum. In the Pelicans’ 127-116 win over the Sixers last Friday, McCollum hit a career-high and franchise-record 11 shots from 3-point territory on his way to a 42-point night.
The Pelicans will look to rebound after falling 116-101 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.
Six players reached double figures in scoring for New Orleans. Williamson scored 20 points on 6-of-16 shooting, but that also came with a career-high nine turnovers.
“They forced us into some tough shots, and we turned the ball over way too much against this team, which fueled their transition opportunities,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Funky game for us. Once again, we don’t make any excuses. They came out and played an all-around solid game.”
After that amazing performance against the Sixers, McCollum scored 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting, including 1-of-7 on 3-pointers. McCollum also committed six turnovers.
The Pelicans did receive some good news with the return of Herb Jones, who had been out since Dec. 23 in health and safety protocol.
Jones shot 2-of-12 for four points but added 11 rebounds and some solid defense.
“I thought he was fine,” Green said of Jones. “He’ll continue to work through it. We wanted to get him back on the floor. I thought Herb did a good job. But when you’re coming off of being sick, it takes a few games to get your rhythm going.”
The Pelicans will enter this matchup with a 7-9 road record. They have won 16 of 20 at home.
–Field Level Media